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Friday, May 06, 2005

Insight from the Inside

The following is an excerpt from an article by Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-PG County) about our legislature. While dating from 2001, it offers some insight from the inside.

My Democratic Party colleagues think I'm living in political fantasyland. When I suggest that our legislative ambitions could be broader, "scale back" is their advice. "Don't give corporate Maryland any reason to throw its considerable weight fully behind Republicans." Comforting corporate interests is, of course, the essence of Clintonism, and Maryland is perhaps its perfect laboratory.

In the course of making these important decisions, Maryland lawmakers rarely see average working people. The Statehouse halls belong to the power-suited, always-eager-to-be-helpful lobbyists. Most large companies have full-time lobbyists either on payroll or on retainer. If a legislator is confronted with an issue that poses a stark corporate-consumer contrast, you can be sure that a legislator will have heard the corporate side many times over before any vote is taken.

Legislators do, to be sure, hear from constituents on some issues, most notably the hot "social issues," everything from abortion rights to gun control. But there's little likelihood that lawmakers will receive any appreciable quantities of mail on issues like electricity deregulation. And the constituent mail lawmakers do receive on issues like these will, in all likelihood, be stimulated by the industries most directly involved. On any issue where constituents are silent and industry has made its case-a case that usually boils down to "either go along with the corporate solution or risk losing jobs"-the outcome is assured. In state capitals like Annapolis, the good folks do not beat the bad folks on issues that affect the corporate bottom line. The Statehouse is their turf, not ours.

I am now more convinced that ever that "justice" isn't going to come from inside any legislative chambers. Making fundamental change, even change that falls far short of redistributing wealth and power, will only take place if a broad, active, well-organized people's movement emerges.